The well-traveled U.S. consumer generated a great deal of demand for “adventurous” specialty products. In addition, the popularity of bakery-cafe restaurants such as Panera Bread (Richmond Heights, Mo.) created a sizeable market opportunity for specialty items in the consumer packaged goods industry. The prevalence of such eateries increased consumer awareness and interest in artisan and flavored breads such as ciabatta, focaccia, and naan, leading to the introduction of the Bagetta product line from Father's Table (Sanford, Fla.). The launch included five varieties of focaccia bread, including Asiago Cheese with Roasted Vegetables, Cheddar Cheese with Jalapenos, Margarita Tomato Herb, Roasted Onion with Garlic and Three Cheese. Similar products include the European Multi-Grain, Mediterranean Olive, and Ciabatta Di Bellagio Artisan Bread products from Rudi's Bakery (Boulder, Col.) and the Wine & Cheese Focaccia Toasts from Vineyard Collection (Beullton, Calif.) that feature cabernet, mozzarella, cheddar, smoked tomato and basil.

A number of private label producers developed bakery products with special ingredients to compete in the premium segment, albeit at a lower price point. Target (Minneapolis) continues to lead the private label segment in terms of quality and selection, introducing products such as the Viennese Wafer Hazelnut Creme Cookies, Olive Feta Flavored Crackers and Wild Blueberry Scones under the Archer Farms label. Another private label manufacturer worth mentioning, H-E-B (San Antonio, Texas), recently unveiled its Premium Quality Delicatessen Classic Water Crackers and also introduced the Pecan Treasures Pecan Shortbread Cookies, made with “Texas pecans!”

The market for high-end products extended into baking mixes, allowing consumers to create cakes and cookies that are difficult to create from scratch. Interestingly, producers separate these “specialty” items with descriptive high-end ingredients such as chocolate “chunks” or exotic nuts. For example, Continental Mills (Seattle) launched the Brown & Haley Almond Roca Butter Crunch Cookie Bar Mix, a product that creates a decadent shortbread cookie with a special layer of “Almond Roca Buttercrunch.” The company included the shortbread mixture and almonds inside the package to allow consumers to create the dessert by adding butter and brown sugar.

Health-focused or Fad-focused?

The concept of guilt-free indulgence became popular in the 1990's, after the sudden influx of low-fat dessert items such as the SnackWell's (Kraft Foods—Northfield, Ill.) product line from Nabisco. It appears that the idea is gaining momentum once again, however. New bakery products display the term “reduced carbohydrate” on the package rather than “reduced fat.” In the past few years, the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets influenced new product development considerably, with more than 60 new entrants appearing in 2003. The market for low-carbohydrate products is far from saturated, explaining the recent introduction of Food For Life Baking's (Corona, Calif.) herb-flavored organic bread and the “Adios Carbs” Jalapeño Tortilla products from Synergy Diet (Pasadena, Calif.). Other notable introductions include Lite Harvest Foods' (Lake Grove, Ore.) Frosted Zesty Lemon, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk, and Classic Chocolate Chip Enchantments Low Carb Cookies, and a line of baking mixes from Carbsense Foods (Hood River, Ore.). The company recently launched the MiniCarb Snickerdoodle Cookie, Carrot Cake, Buttery Biscuit and Parmesan Herb Pizza baking mixes--providing consumers the opportunity to create bakery products that adhere to low-carb lifestyle restrictions.

Although the trend's long-term success is questionable, the recent activity stemming from influential producers such as Sara Lee (St. Louis) provides evidence that the low-carbohydrate diet is here to stay--at least temporarily. The company introduced Delightful White and Wheat Bread varieties, with only 45 calories and 9g of carbohydrates per slice.

Organic Lifestyles

The creation and growth of national natural food supermarket chains such as Whole Foods (Plano, Texas) helped educate consumers on the range and depth of organic products. The increased consumer knowledge generated demand in mainstream stores, effectively encouraging large retailers to carry the items and to develop organic products for private label use. The number of organic baked goods increased substantially in 2003, with small producers such as Venus Wafers (Hingham, Mass.) and Organica Foods (Toluca Lake, Calif.) contributing to the heightened activity. The Haute Cuisine crackers from Venus Wafers include Toasted Sesame and Cracked Pepper varieties, while the line of Organic Iced Shortbread Cookies from Organica Foods includes Simply Shortbread with lavender icing, Chocolate Chunk with vanilla icing, and Cinnamon Spice with cinnamon icing.

In the past, organic bakery products frequently were found in gourmet retail outlets; however, producers now offer products for everyday use. After a long day, consumers now can prepare a burrito with Harbar's (Jamaica Plain, Mass.) Sun Dried Tomato, Spinach & Herb, and Taco Style organic tortillas, or whip up a quick dessert with the Up Country Naturals Organic Fudge Brownie Mix from Maple Grove Farms of Vermont (St. Johnsbury, Vt.). Earth and Sky (Marina Del Ray, Calif.) introduced a convenient breakfast-oriented product line including the Cranberry Sage and Wild Blueberry Thyme Flatbread varieties, which are “ready-to-eat from freezer to toaster in less than three minutes.”

Snack-friendly Varieties

For a short break or an added energy boost between meals, consumers often reach for baked goods. Hot Pockets Pastries (Nestle USA--Glendale, Calif.) provide a convenient breakfast and double as a mid-day snack after school, as do the individually wrapped Decadent Chocolate Grahams from Mrs. Field's (Salt Lake City, Utah). Flowers Bakeries (Thomasville, Ga.) unveiled a line of snack cakes targeting Hispanic consumers under the Pan Dulce de mi Casa label. The launch included 10 varieties such as “Conchas” soft yeast rolls with a sugary topping, “Panquecitos” mini pound cakes and “Panque con Nuez” pecan pound cake slices.

Children are heavy snackers and, naturally, many wish to eat at inopportune moments while commuting to school or sporting events. In response, multiple producers decided to develop new bakery products that feature packages designed to prevent spillage and damage. Recent introductions include the organic Oatmeal Raisin Crocodile Cookies from Healthy Handfuls (Auburn, Calif.). The product possesses multiple benefits, offering parents the opportunity to give children a low-fat snack in a crush-resistant package that “fits into car cup holders for easy portability.”

Do-it-yourself, Without Worry

New baking kits streamline the preparation process by including all the necessary ingredients in one package. ConAgra Foods (Omaha, Neb.) extended its dinner kit concept with the introduction of Banquet Dessert Bakes line, a convenient product that requires a short five-minute preparation process. The company first introduced the Chocolate Cherry Decadence Cake with “luscious cherries, chocolate cake, and vanilla flavored icing,” and later launched additional varieties including Chocolate Lava Cake, Apple Crisp and Cherry Cobbler.

Children often enjoy baking with parents, and products such as the Betty Crocker Sesame Street Cookie Kit from General Mills (Minneapolis) provide a perfect set-up for such an activity. The package includes two pouches of sugar cookie mix, one container of frosting, a tube of red and blue decorating gels, and letter stencils that create the letters A, B and C. In addition, each kit features a convenient carrying handle and Elmo Fruit Snacks to keep antsy youngsters satisfied until the cookies are finished.

Flavor Trends

In 2003, flavor profiles within the bakery category grew increasingly sophisticated. Bistro New York International (New York) introduced a line of Café Biscuits “made with high-quality coffee,” including Amaretto, Hazelnut, Irish Cream and French Vanilla varieties, while Nabisco (Kraft Foods—Northfield, Ill.) introduced Coffee'n Cream Oreo Double Delight Cookies. Garlic flavors appeared in specialty products such as the “You Asked for Garlic” snacks from Nicole's Divine Crackers (Chicago) and in the Fresh Garlic & Italian Herb Toasted Baguette snacks from Private Harvest (Lakeport, Calif.). Spicy selections also were prevalent with Sunshine Bakeries (Tampa, Fla.) unveiling the Chili Cheese Cheez-It variety following the launch of Kraft Foods' Jalapeño Cheddar Cheese Nips early in 2003.

On the sweet side, fruity flavors often are popular when targeting Hispanic consumers, explaining Murray Biscuit's (Augusta, Ga.) decision to introduce “Tropicales” Cookies with Lime, Orange, Lemon, Strawberry, and Grape varieties. Dulce de leche, another flavor preferred by the Hispanic population, also is gaining ground in mainstream markets, and Parmalat USA (Wallington, N.J.) recently added a Dulce de Leche Caramel Drizzled Shortbread Cookie to its Salerno FudgOrama line.

Some of the information in this article was derived from Mintel International's Global New Products Database,, 312-932-0400.

Website Resources

Investor's Business Daily article on impact of low-carb foods on pasta industry

Article on the IAWS Group Plc. and its affordable artisan breads in the U.S.

Formulation challenges of baked goods

Going Global

Outside the U.S., the low-carbohydrate trend is virtually non-existent, with producers opting to focus on fortification by including ingredients such as calcium. The Creatures of the Sea Bite Size Crackers, from Watson's Personal Care in Malaysia, include calcium and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an ingredient known to facilitate brain and vision development. Similar developments included the ABC Biscuits from Maohuat in China with DHA, beta-carotene, calcium, iron and zinc. Known for its numerous health benefits, green tea frequently appeared in many different food categories. Recent examples include Uncle T Food's Maison De Kukkia Japanese Sanded Green Tea Chocolate Cookies in Canada and the aromatic and flavorful Paribre Puff cookies with green tea cream fillings from Bourbon Corporation in Japan.

Many products have short shelflives, leaving consumers no option but to freeze a portion of the loaf for later use. However, freezing the product increases preparation time considerably, explaining the motive behind Solo's Single Bread from Van der Meulen in the Netherlands. The company states that the range of individually wrapped bread “better serves small households that find a normal pack size to be too big.”